Crich confirm exciting tram restoration plans

The Tramway Museum Society have recently published a new strategy review, identifying key aims for the development of the National Tramway Museum at Crich over the next few years. This has included identifying which projects are to be high priorities for the workshop over the next ten or more years, with three trams being listed. All of these are likely to stir up strong emotions, none more so than one of the best loved trams in the entire collection – Blackpool Dreadnought 59.

Naturally, the order of priority for restoration projects can change in light of any funding opportunities that may arise, however as it currently stands the cars which have been identified as being of high priority at present are the aforementioned Blackpool 59, the steam tram loco Manchester, Bury, Rochdale & Oldham 84 and a replica Manchester Standard car. Of these, it is believed that the Dreadnought is the top priority, and this is thought to have been at least partly instigated by a request for this iconic tram to be rescued from storage from some of the museum’s financial supporters. Having been hidden from view at Clay Cross since 1995, any positive developments involving 59 are likely to be greeted with considerable excitement as this is largely considered to be one of the most valuable trams in the museum’s collection, and is often said to be the most important of all preserved Blackpool cars.

Likewise, the addition of a working steam tram engine to the Crich fleet would be a major coup and would enable the museum to demonstrate the three most common forms of motive power on British tramways – horse, steam and electric. Of the three trams mentioned, this is likely to be the most challenging of all, as not only would the restoration of MRBO 84 create many new challenges for the museum, but also it would need to be housed in accommodation separate from the rest of the fleet due to potential fire hazards. However, the benefits of such an ambitious project could be huge, and Crich are to be applauded for even contemplating such a task, which will hopefully come to fruition in the medium term.

The plans to construct a replica of a Manchester Standard car from scratch are likely to be the most controversial of the trio, as this would represent a major change in direction for a museum which has only previously restored existing vehicles rather than creating one from scratch. However, with recent restorations such as Sheffield 74 and London 159 being increasingly thorough due to the small amount of salvageable material on the original cars, the scene has arguably already been set for this next step, although the fact that the TMS are often heard to use a shortage of depot space as a reason for not accepting further vehicles will clearly be an issue here. However, with a large sum of money already allocated to this purpose thanks to a legacy, it seems increasingly likely that this idea will become a reality and Crich will become home to its first ever replica of a long-lost type of tramcar.

These plans are sure to be the subject of much discussion and it could be argued that other more worthy projects exist, but it is pleasing to see the TMS working to identify the projects that it is believed will benefit the museum, and also for communicating its aims to the membership. Whilst a lot of money will need to be raised if even one of these projects is to be completed, it is pleasing to see such plans being released into the public domain and we wish the TMS well in securing the required finance to move forwards and strengthen the museum as both an important collection of international importance, and as an enjoyable tourist attraction for visitors.



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40 Responses to Crich confirm exciting tram restoration plans

  1. Christopher Callan says:

    Whilst i applaud the announcement in principle have significant reservations. All feels rather convenient that as the AGM approaches this wonderful carrot is dangled to get the pulses racing. And help people conveniently forget the wider landscape and the serious issues that need raising. Politicians do this type of thing all the time. Are at it at the moment with the election looming next year.

    Whilst in principle a much needed step in the right direction. A clear transparent plan going forward open to scrutiny and debate.

    • BigG says:

      You obviously have not read the document from which Andrew took his information, the TMS Five Year Strategy (2014- 2019), which is a clear transparent plan going forward and open to scrutiny and debate – by TMS members, which was why it was sent as part of the AGM pack and is the subject for discussion at the pre-AGM meeting. To further allay your cynicsm it has been, I understand, some 12 months in preparation and is not a short term ploy produced just prior to the AGM.

      • Christopher Callan says:

        Bit of an assumption. Having seen the document. Whilst agree with some aspects of it. Struggle to envisage implementation & still have serious doubts about the entire operation as a whole.

        Whilst aspects such as the street scene and dreadnought will attract the headlines and plaudits from enthusiasts and the general public. In general just disagree with the direction. Think preservation can and must move to more regional based system less reliant on one premier location.

      • Christopher Callan says:

        Whilst this 12 months have been probably the most challenging in the Museums existence as it battles to re discover a niche in which it can successfully operate. No doubt in my mind they needed a positive document to help lift spirits. Think the choice of the dreadnought & an attempt to reduce one example of where reserved fund looked set to remain stagnant (Replica Manchester) were both popular policies that hoped to unite what is now a very fractured movement. Personally think the state of preservation as whole needs addressing with a new model to come out of it at the end.

  2. Steve Kemp says:

    I would love to be able to see ride and photograph a Manchester Standard car this would be fantastic for me and other Mancunians to compare the past present and future.

    • Franklyn says:

      Steve, the problem is you won’t be seeing a Manchester car. What you will be seeing is a Crich car that just happens to look a bit like those that used to run in Manchester.

      There are all kinds of problems with building replica rail vehicles. This tram would likely be classed as a new build by the Railway Inspectorate, which would possibly force the builders and operators of the vehicle to adapt the original design to include modern safety systems. I remember the RI a few years back stating that all trams should have three white lights on the front in a triangular pattern (If you look at the rebuilt Balloons in Blackpool you’ll notice they have this with the provision of the pointless light near the destination display). Crich got away without it because their trams are restorations of existing equipment and they don’t operate on a public highway. There was also talk or regulations about the height of the top guard rail on open top and balcony vehicles, which a lot of the Crich trams would have failed. This was about the time Stockport 5 was being restored and I believe may have been the reason they decided to increase the height of the decency panels in the way they did.

      Any new build is would be fraught with legislation difficulties, meanwhile very worthy genuine original trams are being turned away or left to rot. Crich is supposed to show a representative selection of all the different types of trams which have operated in Britian. (Note NOT the whole world) But where is the Twin Car to demonstrate trailer operation? Where is the Blackpool Centenary, the last traditional British tram to be built? And if you want a Manchester tram, where is the T68, which could have represented the first second gereration trams and also an articulated vehicle? A T68 in service and the building of an offside loading platform out of the way at Town End would also have done away with the need for the butchered foreign access trams.

      The restoration plan for the Dreadnought is to be applauded, but it should be remember this tram left Blackpool in fully operational, if shabby, condition. I doubt years of neglect at Clay Cross, including a major fire there while it has been in residence, have done much for it.

      Yes a replica is all well and good, but let’s get the rotting but worthy real vehicles sorted out first.

      • Christopher Callan says:

        Does it actually matter now whether Crich Tramway Village demonstrates Blackpool. Blackpool is the place for that to develop and is been.

        • Andrew Waddington says:

          I think it does. By excluding developments such as the Twin Car concept and the Chopper controls, not to mention the use of bus bodies on rails (Centenary cars), Crich has effectively turned its back on a fairly large chunk of tramway history in Britain. I would say that as the National Tramway Museum, these innovations should really have been represented.

          • Franklyn says:

            I totally agree Andrew. That was my point exactly. When I was at Crich I always understood the collections policy was to tell the story of British tramways and include as many developments as possible. Unfortunately they don’t seem to be doing that and the lack of a Twin car is particularly baffling. However regarding Centenary 648 (or 651 as I remember it) I have a long memory, which gives me a nasty feeling the decision may be political.

          • Phill says:

            Why was it Crich couldn’t accept a centenary etc? Wasn’t it something to do with a new depot appeal that no-one wanted to put money into? BTW 762 has chopper controls, hence the haunted house creaky door sound effect when you apply power.

    • Roland Harmer says:

      What a wonderful project, perhaps it could be taken to Manchester for a visit.

  3. Phill says:

    The 5 year plan has a lot more than this in it. There are plans for major developments of the street, and extra depot space-the latter addressing your point about no room for a Manchester Standard. Personally I’m very excited about the street plans. The improved setting for the trams will no doubt help with filming work too.

    • Daniel says:

      Same, from looking at comments made on tripadvisor this is one of the most common complaints so an improved street scene should greatly enhance the visitor experience.

    • Franklyn says:

      I agree, a better street scene would be nice, especially for filming purposes. However it should be remembered that when you put up a new building like an extra cafe or shop etc, then that building has to be maintained and staffed, all of which cost money. It might also take business away from other outlets on the site, so driving up the overheads to serve any given number of customers.

      The big problem with Crich, like the nearby Midland Railway Centre, is that the line doesn’t actually go anywhere. It’s just a joy ride to nowhere. Compare it to places like the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, which is used as a proper railway service by locals travelling between Keighley and Oxenhope. This road to nowhere problem is the real difficulty I think Crich faces in the long term and that is what needs to be addressed.

  4. Alan Robson says:

    I personally think all three of these projects are excellent choices, with the Manchester Standard being a particularly tantalising subject choice. The chance of seeing and riding one of these spectacular trams in the flesh (replica or not) is a very exciting prospect indeed.

  5. Daniel says:

    Woo hoo! Good news all round!

  6. Andy says:

    Regards the steam tram strategy, I’ve been working on the steam tram for the last 2 years as to the requirements for its operation, maintenance and storage as well as cataloguing all of the parts. As Andrew has written, a complete new depot complex would be required for the steam tram due to potential fire hazards.
    With 59, many comments have been made in the past saying that it should be on display at Crich. With the atmosphere being better at Clay Cross than at Crich and considering its poor condition, this has helped to consideably slow down the deterioration of the tram.

  7. Nigel Pennick says:

    As time passes, the history of British trams gets longer and perspectives change. The inability to get a Metrolink T68 into the museum (plus an original Midland Metro car when they are taken out of service) means that the museum is by default restricting itself to the history of first-generation tramways, as the construction of a replica of a lost 20th century Manchester tram shows.

    • Daniel says:

      I wouldn’t be so sure about that, I’ve heard stuff about them getting a Nottingham tram in the distant future as it’s a British built tram. That is just a rumour I have heard though.

      • Nigel Pennick says:

        Interesting. Does this infer that a T68 is discounted as Italian? I was under the impression that Crich intended to document the history of British tramways, which of course means vehicles that ran here. British tram history is not separate from world developments – the first tramline here was built by an American, and articulated trams did not originate here either. Some of the early UK trams were built in the United States (like the new 2014 Class 66 diesel locomotives), and Crich has a few from mainland Europe too.

  8. Paul D says:

    Firstly, I don’t recall any previous similar document ever being published so we have to recognise that this 5 year plan represents a step in the right direction in both medium-term planning and communication from the TMS.

    Secondly, two of the three major projects (the Dreadnought and Steam Tram) (a) fill significant gaps in the current operational fleet and (b) are high on most enthusiasts ‘wish lists’ so regardless of whether their selection is in response to enthusiast pressure; curatorial reasons; or promise of external funding; it is pleasing to see them included. The Manchester replica is always going to have a mixed reception, but so long as the entire funding is available and is ring fenced, it isn’t taking funds that could be used for other trams.

    My only concern is that to complete all three major projects within the 5 years (and not forgetting LCC1 which is slated to take much of the next two years) will consume a large amount of workshop and staff time which unless carefully planned could potentially impact on the day-to-day routine maintenance and fleet availability. The obvious solution, which will also show that attitudes are changing in the direction of more openness and co-operation, would be for one or more of these to be progressed in conjunction with outside bodies. Potentially much of the work on the Dreadnaught could be undertaken at Rigby Road; the Steam Tram by Beamish or one of the Heritage Railways (Midland Railway Centre is just down the road at Butterley); or the Manchester Replica jointly with the MTMS.

    • Phill says:

      The plan only mentions these cars in passing as “They should be the museums priorities, in terms of what we restore next”. The main body of the plan is about developing infrastructure, which will be far more important for the museums future.

      • Paul D says:

        In which case Phil, all the more reason to let these cars go if outside organisations can put together a viable business plan to restore them within the timescales…

        • Franklyn says:

          I agree. I’d love to see the Dreadnought restored (again! 🙂 ) And realistically the cost of the restoration could likely be recoverd quicker by operating it in regular service at Blackpool, where there are more potential passengers, than just running the odd day here and there at Crich.

          I was surprised to say the least when 59 left Blackpool in 1995 after many years of regular service there. Yes, it needed an overhaul, but as is now being proved with Box 40 and is also the case with other vintage trams such as Bolton 66, there is a good financial business case for keeping vintage trams in ‘proper’ service rather than capturing them inside a museum.

          I’ve heard all sorts of stuff in the past like “Blackpool don’t look after the trams”, but that really is the past. Brian and his excellent team are now doing stirling work. And any operator who can keep 80 year old vehicles in daily commercial service, as Blackpool have done, can’t ever have been all that neglectful of their rolling stock, can they?

          • Nathan says:

            Franklyn: Are you aware of the current situation in Blackpool? The council decided to reduce heritage tram operation this year to a pathetic 9 days, although this has been brought up to about 13 now thanks to the generous sponsorship of a few enthusiast groups. It is obvious the council care little about Blackpool’s tramway heritage. If 59 was sent to Blackpool it would probably get about 5 days of running a year, perhaps less if there is bad weather, while at Crich it would probably manage about 800 miles a year. It’s a pity really, I suggested on these pages a bit ago that the tramway should be preserved properly as a tourist attraction but that got a hugely negative reception despite the overwhelmingly positive effect it would have on Blackpool and tram preservation as a whole. I’m beginning to wonder whether there will be any heritage operation at all next year. It would be much more profitable for Blackpool council to sell off Rigby Road and keep the more ‘popular’ trams, ie the illuminateds and the boats, at Starr Gate for occasional private hires. Given these circumstances I’d much rather 59 stay at Crich until proper, regular heritage tram service in Blackpool is assured.

          • Andrew says:

            Nathan, are you aware of the current situation at Blackpool? Heritage trams run, not for 13 days a year as you state, but for 81 days! There are 13 daytime running days and then ten weeks of illuminations during which the heritage fleet run every single night. As for selling off Rigby Road, that is NOT going to happen. The heritage operation is in a healthy state and will continue to go from strength to strength, with or without 59.

          • Andrew says:

            There is, at most, a four week gap between daytime heritage days so no tram is ‘stuck in a shed’ for any length of time. And that is based on the current operating pattern which will, I’m sure, be extended in the future. At Crich trams can sometimes go for weeks at a time between carrying passenger – 711 is a case in point which has run on only two occasions since the end of May.

        • Phill says:

          To an extent, yes. Crich was always intended as a national museum, so it stands to reason that they’d want to keep cars from all over the UK. But if a properly planned and funded proposal was put to the museum, I’m sure arrangements could be made. For example Gateshead 52. Thing is, Crich can’t make people come to them asking for a tram!

          • Nathan says:

            Darn, I forgot about the illuminations tours…I look like an idiot now! It would actually be a good idea to get 59 at Blackpool for an illuminations season, but I wouldn’t want it stuck in a shed at Blackpool between daytime heritage operations when it could be running at Crich.

  9. Bob Hayes says:

    The TMS and Crich have performed an enormous service to tramway preservation and British engineering and social history – and long may they continue to do so. However, that does not imply that they must be assumed always to be the most competent guardian of tramway heritage.

    As others have stated local perspectives and local opportunities should be encouraged and developed. After all trams were/are a distinctly local development. There are huge gaps in the representation of our tramway history. The remnants of the West Midlands 3′ 6″ systems hang on by a thread at the Black Country Living Museum. A Rawtenstall car survives from the extensive linked 4′ gauge systems of East Lancashire. It will eventually be regauged to standard guage. A 4′ gauge Bradford car survives. A really radical new build would be one of Blackburn’s distinctive double deckers!

    We need to think more locally: Heaton Park, Birkenhead, Summerlee, Beamish etc. could be joined by others. Impossible? In 1979 I was using a hammer and chisel to remove bitumen from the grooves of formerly tarmac-covered tramline in Heaton Park. Did I envisage today’s operations? Of course not!

    Local will be critical to future preservation. Crich will continue to play a key role, but it should not be a quasi-London – setting agendas and sucking-in resources while the rest of the country is ignored or starved of development.

    Rant over!

    • Phill says:

      I’d be very wary of opening more tramways. With the exception of south west england and Wales (the latter only having about 3 1/2 surviving trams I think?), I’d say the spread of heritage tramways is OK. Problem is, how much money would setting up a decent tramway cost? Followed by is there enough support, both now and in the future? It’s a horrible fact to face, but supporters of railway and tramway preservation are overwhelmingly older. This means at the moment there is plenty of spare volunteering time, and a good bit of money, but what will the picture be in 20 years? Surely the money spent on a new museum would be better spent on any of the existing lines. Maybe I’m doom-mongering, on the other hand there’s currently no 3ft 6 tramway running due to lack of investment…
      Besides which, your comparison with London is a tad flawed. Crich is its own museum, and has no say in the running of anywhere else.

      • Paul D says:

        While it is true SOME railways and tramways are facing difficulties because of ageing volunteers but it certainly isn’t true of all. For example, at Heaton Park, over half the operations staff are under 40, while at Crich, yes the Platform staff do seem to mostly be older, there seems to be a good crop of younger volunteers on the workshop/engineering side of the operation.

      • Bob Hayes says:

        Phill, my comparison of Crich and London was not about power (economic or political), it concerned the attraction of resources to a central focus to the disadvantage of others. I repeat my point that trams, by their nature, are local. In a different field we saw Manchester’s centralising tendencies pinch the National Football Museum from Preston. Before anyone claims increased visitor numbers justify the move, the same argument could be made for moving the NFM to London where it would no doubt attract even greater numbers.

  10. JOHN says:

    To add to the replica debate – a new car would not need to be DDA etc etc as it is a historical reconstruction not a replics/new build. there would be common sense requirements that would need to be looked at ie materials no longer available, materials now classed as dangerous etc but nothing insurmountable. Look at Tornado! Though I acn’t help but feel the existing vehicles should be restored first then replicate or more correctly reconstruct what is missing.
    The reason Trams had/have 3 lights is that they come under railway legislation which requires 3 lights – Heritage vehicles are exempt. Technically the balloons which carried them didn’t need to but no one was sure so they put them on!
    If Heaton Park are having a T68 then surely Crich doesn’t need to replicate this? Plenty of room for other local second gen Trams then. Though I do wonder if the time is coming for a second gen museum somewhere. Possibly as a TMS/NRM co-project?
    I look forward to the day 59 and a Steam Tram can be enjoyed!

    • Daniel says:

      I’m should a lot of people at Crich would rather restore existing vehicles but with the money offered it gives them a chance to do what they would have done later anyway.

    • Franklyn says:

      The ‘2nd Generation Museum’ is an interesting idea! Although the newer vehicles should be able to share tracks with older trams with a bit of careful planning, a modern Metrolink car would never sit well in a victorian street scene. So the more I think about it, the more a ‘tramway: TNG museum’ sounds good. And with complete vehicles now starting to become available at scrap prices, this is the time to start collecting!

  11. Joginder Singh says:

    The Manchester “Standard” project is very interesting and I can support that,As for those moaning about it the only things that I can say are 60163 Tornado

    • Nigel Pennick says:

      Tornado can be viewed as the next one in a series construction, modified from the original 1940s design in many ways to enable it to run on the main line to-day. The question about a Manchester standard re-make is whether it is constructed strictly according to original specifications or according to all the modifications and improvements the design had before being taken out of service. To reproduce the actual performance of any design, a working museum must reproduce all the characteristics of a design, good and bad, otherwise it is not a true replica but an external impression of the original vehicle.

  12. Howard Piltz says:

    I, too, am delighted by these plans, especially the replica Manchester Standard. That’ll drag in a lot of new visitors, and Joginder Singh’s comment about the problems of a new-build Is an excellent example for Crich to follow from start to finish. CAN’T WAIT

  13. Graham Feakins says:

    Let’s face it, the ‘second generation’ for many tramways were trolleybuses (they often ran alongside one another) and there was many a suggestion in the past to erect overhead and depot space for trolleybuses at Crich. Other museums have filled that gap. Whilst, of course an ideal, I doubt whether Crich can cope with ‘historical’ 2nd generation tramways as well and thus, in my opinion, is ideally placed to nurture its present collection. That includes historical infrastructure such as the track and overhead construction, often totally ignored by enthusiast and casual visitor alike but itself forming an essential part of the tramway museum.

    The final element of that jigsaw in the national scene came with Leeds 602 but that’s another tale.

    And lest folk forget, trams like Blackpool 59 and Newcastle 102 used to be in service at Crich, as did Leeds 602, of course.

    59 shown here:

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